Monday, August 31, 2020

Wanggaard Pushes Censorship of Athletes' Opinions, Refuses to Take Action on Promoting Racial Justice

STATE SEN. VAN WANGGAARD, a Republican from southeastern Wisconsin who once lost his seat and only won it back because of extreme partisan gerrymandering, is apparently annoyed that athletes across a number of leagues opted to speak out and criticize the Wisconsin legislature.

Players from the Bucks organization are calling on state leaders to pass laws that would hold police officers more accountable, and rein-in policies that are systemically racist. That's apparently too much for Wangaard to handle, who essentially said over the weekend that players should just shut up and play the game.

"It gets a little irritating when I have people that should be playing basketball and football and sticking to their area of expertise," Wanggaard said. "Instead of jumping in and trying to push the envelope when they have no idea what's going on."

Alex Lasry, who serves as a senior vice president with the Milwaukee Bucks, responded tongue-in-cheek to Wanggaard's words.

"Good to see that the Senator still sees legislating as an area of his expertise. After passing no bills for over 4 mos during a pandemic and major civil rights movement, I was beginning to wonder," Lasry wrote in a tweet.

Lasry is perhaps giving Wanggaard too much credit. The senator has in the past based his opinions on ideas and stories that are not based in reality.

For example, when he lost his election for the senate seat he now holds, he claimed that there were "mountains of evidence" of election fraud that led to his defeat. He's yet to provide any said evidence, let alone mountains of it, backing his theory.

Wanggaard also pushed for, and the legislature passed, a rescinding of the state's 48-hour waiting period to buy a gun. He justified removal of the law on details from a case in the early 1990s — details that he and his office essentially made up.

Wanggaard is critical of basketball players and other athletes for speaking up against police violence. The fact is, basketball players are citizens, and have just as much right to speak out against injustices that they see happen. 

To suggest, as Wanggaard has, that they shouldn't speak out for political causes they care about is censorship. There's simply no other way to describe it.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Analyzing WISGOP's Crocodile Tears over Joe Biden Not Coming to WI

REPUBLICANS INSIDE-AND-OUTSIDE OF WISCONSIN are trying to suggest the decision for the Democratic National Convention not to happen in Milwaukee this past week (which was made because of concerns over coronavirus) was somehow a slight to the city and the state by Democrats and Joe Biden.

Here are a few of their supposed complaints:

  • Donald Trump suggested it on Twitter on Saturday. "Biden and the Democrats have greatly disrespected the Great State of Wisconsin by not even paying a small visit to Milwaukee, the designated site of the DNC," he wrote.

  • Former Gov. Scott Walker also whined about Biden not coming to the state, tweeting that the Democratic nominee for president was "blowing off Wisconsin and the voters" here.

  • Assembly Republican Majority Leader Jim Steineke quoted Trump's tweet, adding to it, "He's not wrong" (truth is, Trump/Steineke are wrong...more on that below). 

  • In a separate tweet, Steineke also implied Biden, giving his nomination speech (and a fireworks display) in his home state of Delaware, was less safe than it would have been to do in Wisconsin. "We have 18 deaths per 100,000 ppl," he pointed out, while in "Delaware, where they just held the #DemConvention, they’re at 61 per 100k."

There are two points to address in these criticisms — first, whether it was a better idea based on the numbers for Democrats to do a virtual convention (versus having all of the delegates, speakers, and Biden appear in Milwaukee); and second, whether or not the decision to have the virtual convention was a slight toward the state.

Let's address the first point before we investigate whether we can say Biden is "dissing" Wisconsin or not.

Steineke's specific points above — the per capita effects of coronavirus in both states — aren't completely wrong, but they're also misleading. Delaware, as an east coast state, had to deal with coronavirus much earlier than Wisconsin did, and saw more death per capita as a result of that. 

How things stand right now, however, is a far different story, and that's really what matters more. Whether Delaware fared worse from the start of the pandemic to this point is really not so much a worry, in terms of where Biden should have given his speech, versus how things fare right now in both states.

Comparing both states' 7-day averages of new cases being reported (Delaware's numbers/Wisconsin's numbers) as of the evening of August 22, and comparing them on a per capita basis (Wisconsin has 5.822 million residents, Delaware has just over 970,000), demonstrates a clear-as-day result: it was a better idea for Biden (and for that matter, the rest of the country) not to travel to Wisconsin this week.

Indeed, by looking at those numbers, Wisconsin's rate of coronavirus cases being reported this past week shows that we're reporting a per capita number that's DOUBLE what Delaware is reporting right now.

Comparing the two states on the number of deaths from COVID-19 is, admittedly, a closer comparison: the two are virtually the same in that regard (Wisconsin has a 0.27 percent higher rate). But Delaware's rate of deaths from coronavirus has been virtually unchanged since the start of July, whereas Wisconsin's has gone up by nearly 33 percent during that time. 

Seeing that cases, on a per capita basis, are almost double in Wisconsin what they are in Delaware — and also seeing that the number of deaths is going up in the Badger State while staying flat in the First State — the decision to hold a virtual convention this year, and for Biden to speak in Delaware at the end of it all, was probably a wise one.

Now, onto the second point: whether the decision to not travel to the state was a hurtful/spiteful one to Wisconsinites.

This is an easy one to answer: no, it was not. In fact, it was a respectful decision to not bring travelers from across the country to Milwaukee, likely spreading the disease in a monumental way, which would have hurt the city and state alike. 

The Republicans above and others are trying to suggest Biden wouldn't come to Wisconsin at all during this campaign. Actually, Biden has made it his prerogative not to travel anywhere, not to do any campaigning at all, until it's safe to do so. That's a pledge he made back in June, one that treats Wisconsin and other states equally.

How doe the people of our state feel? They return Biden's feelings, and largely disagree with the arguments that Republicans are making this week. The Marquette Law School poll in June asked whether both conventions (Democrats AND Republicans) should or should not meet this year, with coronavirus in the back of peoples' minds. Just 39 percent said it'd be fine to meet in person for the conventions, while 53 percent said they should not.


There's a third point to all of this that I purposely saved to the end: it's my opinion that Republicans don't actually care about whether the Democratic convention happened in Milwaukee or not. For years, they've derided the city as being "outside" of the rest of the state. So why the sudden "concern" over Biden not coming to Wisconsin?

I can't speak for them, but to me, it would appear to be an attempt to divide Wisconsinites, to make them feel anger toward Biden where none is deserved. His actions are justifiable, and they're in no way meant to be construed as an insult to Milwaukee or to the state in general. Yet, Republicans in Wisconsin want to play them off that way, hoping to score political points through such rhetoric.

Consider what that says about how they feel about their candidate for president. Rather than defend Donald Trump, or go after Biden on substance, they focus their attacks on Joe Biden with phony complaints that disregard the realities that exist under a global pandemic.

I personally won't be casting my vote for president based on who appears in photo ops in front of a Culver's restaurant or Kwik Trip gas station. My vote is going to be based on who is the better leader, and which party has a better vision for America's future.

Featured image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Friday, August 21, 2020

How Kanye's Failed POTUS Bid in WI Exposes Flaws in the Electoral College

KANYE WEST'S ATTEMPT TO appear on Wisconsin's ballot for this year's presidential race was decidedly ended when the state's Elections Commission voted 5-1 on Thursday against accepting his nomination papers.

West's documents to be on the ballot had arrived seconds after 5 p.m. on August 4, the deadline that they were due by. However, the information on the forms was not complete, and his representatives ended up having to finish them up, handing them in well after the deadline was passed.

Even if West had managed to get his nomination papers in on time to the board's liking, it's likely they'd have faced some stiff challenges: many of the signatures collected have been questioned as being faked, in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

The more significant worry, however, would have been how the integrity of the election could have been compromised.

There are allegations — and frankly, some pretty big signs of them being true — that West's candidacy is solely to serve as a "spoiler" candidate to help President Donald Trump win reelection this year. The theory goes that West, as a candidate in this state (and perhaps elsewhere still) would have caused younger voters to support his run for office, taking away votes for Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the process.

West being left off the ballot is a good thing, particularly if you're inclined to believe this theory, but also because he failed to follow the rules to get onto the ballot. Those rules exist for a reason, and only in limited circumstances should they be broken to allow for a candidate to run.

West's "almost" run in Wisconsin, however, showcases a bigger problem with how our elections work, demonstrating yet another reason why the Electoral College system of picking presidents is a flawed institution.

As we saw in 2016, a candidate for president need not win a majority of votes nationwide in order to become commander-in-chief. With spoiler candidates thrown into the mix, they also don't need to attain a majority of votes in a number of states to win office.

Suppose Trump, worried about Biden winning in Wisconsin, decided he wanted to play dirty. Republicans in the state, whether (illegally) coordinating with Trump or not, could do something about it, running a "favorite son/daughter" candidate in the state to encourage would-be Biden voters to support someone else instead. 

Maybe they run a moderate Republican, hoping that wayward "never Trump" GOP voters would support that person instead. Or maybe they run a more progressive Democrat, hoping a few thousand voters here or there choose that person over Biden. Or maybe they run someone like West, recognizing that his run could remove certain voters that generally vote Democratic in presidential races.

(This isn't too far off the mark: Republican strategists were, in fact, the ones behind organizing West's run in the state.)

Whatever the case may be, the strategy is clear: running that candidate to win isn't the goal, but rather, the aim is to take away just enough votes as are necessary in order to help Trump win. The process can be repeated in a number of states across the country (most likely "swing states"), resulting in Trump winning a plurality of votes in those areas, and thus, the Electoral College votes they dish out, catapulting his way to an EC win across the nation. 

This, of course, is a highly dubious way to win, but it's a way that is possible. And as know, Trump has always kept an open mind to the idea of doing whatever it takes to win reelection.

This method of "winning" for Trump, or for any candidate of any party for that matter, can be prevented, however, if we get rid of the Electoral College once in for all, and replace it with a popular vote for determining the president, with an instant voter runoff element added to it

That system would allow voters to rank their choices for president. If a candidate can't attain a majority of votes, the candidate with the least amount of votes is removed, and their voters' second picks are tallied onto the remaining candidates, with the process repeated until a majority is attained.

For example: let's say 47 percent of the vote goes to Trump, 46 percent to Biden, and 7 percent to West. No candidate wins at this point because no one has a majority, and West's votes are now taken out of the count, with his voters' second-place choices now considered. Let's say 5 percent of the 7 percent who voted for West goes to Biden and 2 percent to Trump. That makes the tally 51 percent for Biden, 49 for Trump, and thus, Biden wins the race.

This ensures that no third-party candidate can be a spoiler, whether they're a purposeful helping another candidate one or not. 

There will inevitably be people that respond to this post (on this site or in social media) with the belief that the Electoral College deserves to remain in place. I've written extensively against that notion in the past, noting that almost all of the arguments in favor of the Electoral College fall flat upon closer examination.

So let's sum up those arguments (and the cases against them) quicker than usual with a short FAQ:

  • Wouldn't ending the EC hurt smaller states? No, in fact, because candidates for president don't court smaller states. In 2016, candidates for president and vice president on both Republican and Democratic tickets traveled to 26 states total, ignoring 24 states and Washington D.C. during the general election part of the campaign. The states they went to had an average of almost 14 Electoral College votes per state, while the states not traveled to had an average that was just half of that. This suggests that, the smaller the state is, the more likely it is to be courted by ALL candidates.

  • Won't candidates just go to big states like New York, Texas, California, and Florida? No, because those states total only a third of the United States' population. To even reach "50 percent plus one votes" (as required in the instant voter runoff scenario I'm proposing), you'd have to focus all efforts solely on 10 states — and even then, you'd have to assume your opponents get zero percent of the vote within them. For comparison, only 11 states are necessary to win in the Electoral College in order to win the presidency, if you're just going after "the big ones," and you don't even have to win every single vote within them to get their EC votes. 

  • Won't rural voters be ignored? No — if anything, they'll be empowered. Roughly one-in-five voters in the U.S. are rural-based. Most state populations are centered in cities, so candidates in the EC system only have to court a majority of voters there with some dedication to rural voters. A popular vote would arguably require a much greater dedication toward attaining their votes, especially with how close races have been in recent years, in terms of the popular vote.

We can learn a lot about how our country's government, as great as some might assume it is to be sometimes, is flawed from experiencing real-life scenarios. Much in the same way Donald Trump's presidential tenure has taught us how the head of the executive branch can get away with too much (ethically and legally), Kanye West's presidential bid demonstrates the dangers of allowing a candidate with a hidden agenda onto the ballots.

It doesn't need to be this way. The American people should be allowed to choose their own president, without the Electoral College interfering with their preferences. The possibility of West causing another election upset win for Trump just exposes one more reason why the Electoral College system needs complete and total abolishment.

Featured image credit: Peter Hutchins/Flickr

Monday, August 17, 2020

The Hypocrite-in-Chief Accuses Democrats of "Playing Games" During RNC Convention Week

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP IS accusing Democrats of "playing games" due to the fact that his administration is actively destroying how the Post Office is run. Let's recap:

  • Trump's own Postmaster General Louis DeJoy created these problems. He's slowed down service by reducing working hours, changing how mail is delivered, and removing hundreds of high-speed mail sorter machines.

  • In spite of these changes that Trump's own administration is implementing, Trump tweeted out "SAVE THE POST OFFICE" on Monday afternoon. The irony is that the president himself could save the post office by ordering his postmaster general to knock it off.

  • Trump also tweeted a complaint about Congress returning to Washington in order to address these problems which, again, Trump refuses to fix on his own

Here's what Trump had to say about Democrats:

Why is Congress scheduled to meet (on Post Office) next Monday, during the Republican Convention, rather than now, while the Dems are having their Convention. They are always playing games. GET TOUGH REPUBLICANS!!!

Which is a completely hypocritical thing to say: Trump himself is holding a campaign rally in Wisconsin on the opening day of the Democratic National Convention. And on the day that Joe Biden is set to formally accept the party's nomination, Trump will be holding another campaign event in Delaware as he does so.

If anyone is playing games, it's Trump. Don't fall for his crocodile tears.

Featured image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr, image edits by Chris Walker

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Nearly 7-in-10 Wisconsinites Back Gov. Tony Evers' Mask Mandate, Poll Finds

 The latest Marquette Law School poll is out, and it shows a lot of Wisconsinites are happy with how Gov. Tony Evers is handling the coronavirus pandemic, and upset with President Donald Trump for how he's managed to flub it up across the country. Here are some highlights:

  • We're months away from the presidential election, and Trump (Republican) trails former Vice President Joe Biden (Democrat) by a margin of 42 percent to 48 percent.

  • Trump's approval ratings are underwater, but not in a huge way. Just 44 percent in the state approve of his job as president, while 54 percent disapprove. Gov. Evers has much better numbers, with 57 percent approving his work as governor and 37 percent disapproving.

  • On how they're handling coronavirus, the approval-disapproval gaps expand, with 40 percent approving Trump's handling of the pandemic while 61 percent approve of the way Evers is handling things

  • This is the first post-mask mandate Marquette Law School poll, demonstrating most Wisconsinites are supportive of Evers's efforts. Indeed, the poll asks on the mask mandate whether Wisconsinites are supportive of it. Nearly 7-in-10 (69 percent to be exact) back the requirement to wear masks, with just 29 percent saying they oppose the mandate.

For complete results, check out the poll by clicking here.

Featured image credit: